Dealing with Unsolicited Advice in Motherhood

Have you ever heard the term “mom-shaming”? This is a recent term that refers to shaming a mother for failing to follow a norm or something that a person considers to be correct in the world of motherhood.

A few days ago, I heard about a mother who, when she discovered she was expecting her first child, felt as though her life became “public domain” in all matters pertaining to maternity. She would receive so much advice and so many different opinions that she became anxious and worried due to so much information.

We know and trust that 90% of the individuals who offer their advice and opinions, offer them with good intentions, with the purpose of enhancing the other person’s experience. But maternity, in and of itself, places a lot of demands and pressure on the mother, and, many times, a piece of advice given with the best of intentions can heighten these feelings of pressure and cause her to feel overwhelmed as well as generate feelings of low self-esteem and even depression.

If you are a mother and have felt this first hand, I want to share with you the experience of my sister Juliana, who recently had her third child:

“Once, someone came up to me and told me I needed to take off some of the clothes my baby was wearing because, in her opinion, I was suffocating him, and he was likely too hot. So I took off the cardigan he was wearing. Then, a little later, someone else came up to me and asked me why my baby didn’t have a sweater on. The poor baby was certainly cold, they were sure! I was confused but learned my lesson. I am the mother, and I must know my baby. If I check the temperature of his hands and feet, I’ll know if he is cold or not. From that day on, I decided to make my own decisions. When someone gives me an opinion, I don’t totally discard it. I evaluate it, and if I realize that it makes sense for me and my baby, I thank the person and put it into practice. If I don’t agree with the opinion I was given, I simply say ‘thank you’ and say no more. That way, I feel free to make my decisions without closing myself off to good advice .”

That’s the way Juliana found to deal with the opinions of others without causing arguments, but also without feeling undue anxiety. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Everyone will, at some point, make mistakes, and it is through these mistakes that you will discover what works for your baby or not. In the meantime, try not to harbor negative feelings, and feel at peace to enjoy the moment with your baby.

A valuable tip to consider being giving advice or opinion to a mom is to wait for her to ask your opinion or ask for your advice. If you’re already a mother and believe that your experience can help in some way—perhaps you can recommend an ointment for rashes that was effective for your child, or suggest a different method to help alleviate the baby’s colic—advise without criticism and judgments. Share your experience and how you dealt with a specific situation, but allow the mother to feel free and at liberty to make her own choices and experiences.

We must remember that every person is different. What may work for some may not work for others, and that’s okay. Maternity is a time of discoveries. Sometimes, all a mother wants is the privacy to make these discoveries in a calm and relaxed manner and to be able to enjoy this special phase of life. So, during this time, we can use our words to provide support by saying things like:

“You are doing a great job!”

“Do you need help?”

“Would you like me to get you a glass of water while you nurse?”

“You are the exact kind of mother your child needs!”

Let’s make this time in the life of every mother special by using positive words. Negative words were never heard from the lips of Jesus. He was always ready to offer a word of encouragement and motivation.

“The voice and tongue are gifts from God, and if rightly used, they are a power for God. Words mean very much. They may express love, devotion, praise, melody to God, or hatred and revenge. Words reveal the sentiments of the heart. They may be a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. The tongue is a world of blessing or a world of iniquity. […] If we look on the bright side of things, we shall find enough to make us cheerful and happy. If we give smiles, they will be returned to us; if we speak pleasant, cheerful words, they will be spoken to us again.”

Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, p. 572

Read the other articles in our The Baby’s Here! Now What? series!

Postpartum Depression: A new perspective on maternity

Mirror, Mirror: Loving your body postpartum

An Intro to Breastfeeding for the Expectant Mother

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